Tag Archives: authors

Grades 7-12 Riveted By Tales from Storyteller Gail de Vos

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Gail de Vos at Swan Hills School

Following in the tradition of storytelling throughout the ages of humanity, storyteller Gail de Vos captivates her audience with tales that hit home. On October 15, our Junior and Senior High students were fully engaged as she told old and new tales. Perfectly timed with the upcoming Halloween atmosphere, Gail told her version of urban myths like ‘The Exploding Toilet’ and ‘The Vanishing Hitchhiker’.

Gail explained that anyone that has ever made up an excuse, engaged in gossip or told a friend about a book or a movie, is a storyteller. Like the way we improvise, elaborate and spin words to suit our ‘audience’, Gail explained how the most effective stories are those that are modified to meet the present time and place. Gail told a story that she performed  for a Halloween Graveyard event at Fort Edmonton Park. She craftily incorporated surrounding sounds, scents and objects to increase the ‘fear factor’ of the tale. Readers may have heard the story of the sunbather who woke up with a cheek full of hatching spiders, which is a contemporary adaptation of an ancient cautionary story. Gail told about the 60’s version of the story, which was told with effect to girls with elaborate beehive hairdos who might end up having spiders nesting in it  if they didn’t wash their hair more often.


The Wendigo from Deadliest Fiction.com (click)

Gail also delved into ancient characters who have stood the test of time and how their stories vary by region and culture. There are many stories told about La Llorona (Weeping Woman), who watches over the lake where she drowned her own children and herself, variously drowning children or protecting them from drowning and/or murdering men, who represent the husband who rejected her. The Golem, from Jewish folklore has appeared in 6 major comics in the past 2 years. The Vanishing Hitchhiker is a 400 year-old-story that has taken on many forms including the 1960s hit ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’. Gail set her version on Alberta Highway 2 near Blackfalds. Canada’s Sasquach and the First Nations’ Wendego also fit into that category.

Gail talked about the current fad of ‘Legend Tripping’ – going into haunted houses and other scary situations – as well as the vicarious version, where we watch YouTube videos of other people doing it. ‘Bloody Mary’ (locking oneself in a dark bathroom and performing the ritual expected to call the murderess through the mirror) is a form of this game that is familiar to many of our students. As our students were not able to name a local haunted house, more creative means have likely been found for Legend Tripping possibly involving the forests surrounding our town.

Comics, graphic novels, animated movies and even computer games are all in the realm of Gail’s interest in popular culture.  She explained how ballads are stories told in song and that Disney’s Mulan started out as an ancient ballad. She warned of the danger of progressing from enjoying old and new myths to immersing oneself and losing perspective as in the case of the Slenderman  tragedy earlier this year.


Click for the books on Gail de Vos’ website

Gail de Vos is a professor at the University of Alberta, an award-winning author and a leader in the international storytelling community. She specializes in Urban Legends – those tales we almost believe are news until the truth comes out. She has published several books including the following, which we have in our library and which I’ve linked to their Goodreads entries:

We feel very fortunate to be able to host a literary artist thanks to the Young Alberta Book Society’s Taleblazers festival, which covers expenses. We cover artists’ fees with the income from our annual Scholastic Book Fair.


Filed under Education, Library Programs

E.B. White Compares Writing to Sneezing

E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web is the first ‘chapter book’ that I remember truly loving. It was the book that made me think of myself as a reader; that made me want to find another book and keep reading – right away.

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I inscribed it myself…


I still have the copy I was given in 1968

I would read it to my granddaughters but am happy that our Grade 3 teacher does it as a novel study every year. (This year she is tying it in with a spider study for which I made a research page as well as providing books from our library and through inter-library loan.)

E.B. White took his responsibility as a writer seriously.

E.B. White

E.B. White

“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth. They accept, almost without question, anything you present them with, as long as it is presented honestly, fearlessly, and clearly. I handed them, against the advice of experts, a mouse-boy, and they accepted it without a quiver. In Charlotte’s Web, I gave them a literate spider, and they took that.”
E. B. White, The Art of the Essay No. 1, Paris Review interview by George Plimpton and Frank H. Crowther.

Maybe Not the Reason, But at Least the Inspiration For this Particular Sneeze

One of the 15 most read letters in 2013 posted on the Letters of Note and now published in Letters of Note: Coorespondance Deserving of a Wider Audience, complied by Shaun Usher is one written by E.B. White in September of 1952,  a few weeks before it’s publication, to his editor responding to a request to explain why he wrote Charlotte’s Web.

Article and transcript: A Book is a Sneeze.


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Christmas Cards for Book Lovers

Yardia (Click)

Savvy Sisters (Click)

Allport (Click)

Aautio (Click)

The Reader’s Catalog (Click)

Shakespeare’s Globe (Click)

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Various Working of Authors’ Minds

J.K. Rowling’s spreadsheet plan for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

William Faulkner’s outline for A Fable — written on his office walls.

Norman Mailer’s character timeline for Harlot’s Ghost.

Gay Talese’s outline for his classic profile “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (a magazine article)

(Click images for larger view)

From Flavorwire (where there are more).Via 22 Words


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Prepare for Clifford’s 50th Birthday

Norman Bridwell’s Clifford Collection, a compilation of six stories originally published between 1963 and 1977 will be released on September 24, 2012 to celebrate the Big Red Dog’s 50th birthday. Also coming in September: Clifford’s BIG Birthday app for iOs and Android featuring three birthday-themed games.

Read more at SLJ News Bites where there are more links and activities. Canadian readers please note that the celebration webcast is not available in Canada, but the kit, with celebration ideas, reproducibles and lesson plans can be used to host your own party.

Other links:
PBS Kids Interactive Clifford
PBS Clifford Playlist on YouTube
Scholastic Canada Interactive Clifford
Scholastic Teachers Interactive Storybooks
Wikipedia: Clifford the Big Red Dog with full book list

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Seeking New Favourite Authors for Yourself or Other Readers?

Literature Map is a wonderful tool to search for a new author to read while you wait for your favourite to publish their next book. It is also a great way to expand on a popular genre or type in your collection.

“You type in an author’s name, and the screen fills with names of many authors. The placement of each author is based on how similar the writing is to the author you typed. It is hard to explain because it is very visual. You can use it for all ages. It is a lot of fun to watch the author’s names move across the screen every time you type someone new in the box. ” (source)

This is a screen shot of the results of a search for Ellen Hopkins, a popular author with my high school students. Click the image to enlarge and then go to Literature-Map to try it for yourself. Pretty impressive.

Discovered at Tales From a Loud Librarian along with some other great online resources in the post “Need Help Selecting a Book?”


Filed under Books, Authors & Illustrators, Online Resources

Charles Dickens: 58 years in 4.5 Minutes – Delightfully

February 7th will be Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday. Watch for the ‘net to be flooded with the sharing of his life and his gifts. As an admirer, I’ll be along for the party.

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Graffiti Artists Find Inspiration in Literature

Alice in Wonderland, Leake St Cans Festival, London

Emily Dickinson, Ireland

Arthur Rimbaud, Paris, France

Clicking on the images will take you to their original sources.
Found at Flavorwire where there are 22 more pieces.

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures.”
Henry Ward Beecher.

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Literary Stamps


Louisa May Alcott

Hans Christian Anderson

Jane Austen

Frank L. Baum

Michael Bond

Just a few examples from the beginning of a huge list of literary stamps from a great site of the same name.  I had no idea there were so many. Click on each image to go to the page of stamps created to honour that author.

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Maira Kalman ~ Illustrator & Author

Clicking on the image will take you to the book’s description on Maira Kalman’s website. Her other books are here.

 “Maira Kalman was born in Tel Aviv and moved to New York with her family at the age of four. She was raised in bucolic Riverdale, the Bronx. She now lives in Manhattan.”

In the 2007 Ted Talk video embedded below “author and illustrator Maira Kalman talks about her life and work, from her covers for The New Yorker to her books for children and grown-ups. She is as wonderful, as wise and as deliciously off-kilter in person as she is on paper”. (Ted)

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